Volcanic ash layers illuminate the resilience of Neanderthals and early Modern Humans to natural hazards

Lowe, J., Barton, N., Blockley, S., Bronk Ramsey, C., Cullen, V.L., Davies, William, Gamble, Clive, Grant, K., Hardiman, M., Housley, R., Lane, C.S., Lee, S, Lewis, M., MacLeod, A., Menzies, M.A., Mueller, W., Pollard, M., Price, C., Roberts, A.P., Rohling, E.J., Satow, C., Smith, V.C., Stringer, C., Tomlinson, E.L., White, D., Albert, P.G., Arienzo, I., Barker, G., Boric, D., Carendente, A., Civetta, L., Ferrier, C., Guadelli, J.-L., Karkanas, P., Koumouzelis, M., Mueller, U.C., Orsi, G., Pross, J., Rosi, M., Shalamanov-Korobar, L., Sirakov, N. and Tzedakis, P.C. Reset Team (2012) Volcanic ash layers illuminate the resilience of Neanderthals and early Modern Humans to natural hazards. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, (34), 13532-13537. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1204579109).


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Marked changes in human dispersal and development during the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition have been attributed to massive volcanic eruption and/or severe climatic deterioration. We test this concept using new records of volcanic ash layers of the Campanian Ignimbrite (CI) eruption, dated to c. 40,000 years ago (40 ka BP). The
distribution of the CI has been enhanced by the discovery of ‘cryptotephra’ deposits, volcanic ash layers that are not visible to the naked eye, in archaeological cave sequences. They enable us to synchronise archaeological and paleoclimatic records through the period of transition from Neanderthal to earliest anatomically modern human populations in Europe. Our results confirm that the combined effects of a major volcanic eruption and severe climatic cooling failed to have lasting impacts on Neanderthals or early modern humans in Europe. We infer that modern humans proved a greater competitive threat to indigenous populations than natural disasters.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1073/pnas.1204579109
ISSNs: 0027-8424 (print)
1091-6490 (electronic)
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Divisions : Faculty of Humanities > Archaeology
Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences > Ocean and Earth Science
ePrint ID: 341084
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
21 August 2012Published
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2012 09:02
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 14:31
RESET: RESponse of humans to abrupt Environmental Transitions
Funded by: NERC (NE/E015913/1)
Led by: John Lowe
2 June 2008 to 31 December 2013
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/341084

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